Lewis Hamilton’s ‘psychological’ trick back in the F1 spotlight

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton makes his way through the paddock area at the Italian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton's 'psychological process' explained

Lewis Hamilton’s notorious tyre complaints are all part of his “psychological process” to “maximise” his situation, revealed Mercedes development driver Esteban Gutierrez.

Hamilton is well known for his complaints about whatever set of tyres is bolted onto his Mercedes F1 car during a Grand Prix as the Briton tries to throw off his rivals.

The tyre complaints were heard loud and clear during Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix as the seven-time World Champion voiced his concerns about the life of his medium tyres.

Lewis Hamilton and the tyre games

And then he finished the Grand Prix by snatching the fastest lap point as he clocked a 1:21.334 on the final lap using 42-lap old medium tyres while bringing his W14 home in second place.

Gutierrez says it’s part of Hamilton’s “psychological process”.

The 32-year-old explained on the F1 Nation podcast: “Lewis is very strong in that kind of situation.

“I think he says some things to let it out of his system, it’s not necessarily meaning that’s what he believes, he’s just getting that out of his system.

“If I was in this position, it’s like a psychological process to try to increase or maximise your situation. And he’s done that a couple of times in his career where sometimes he makes an indication and then he does totally the opposite.

“And he’s like mega and doing the fastest laps and incredible stints and I think today was a good example of that.”

It’s a game, though, that Hamilton’s rivals have wised up to.

“The trouble is you can’t keep doing that because people see through it, don’t they?” said Natalie Pinkham.

Tom Clarkson replied: “I think they are!”

Pinkham: “Like come on, give us a break.”

Hamilton has copped to the tyre games himself, telling CrowdStrike’s YouTube channel last year: “There have been times where it’s worked in benefit but it’s a very, very, very fine line.”

“The other teams are listening to what you’re saying, so everyone is listening out to who’s pitting when.”

But of course, he added “the worst thing is if you bluff your own teams. So you’ve got to be careful.”

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Lewis Hamilton deemed a ‘master’ in tyre management

Clarkson pointed out that Hamilton is a “master” at tyre management, the Briton holding onto his in Mexico while George Russell struggles.

“His tyre management is great,” acknowledged Gutierrez. “Temperature management, engine temperature management, all of those variables. Lewis is thinking on every detail and and he’s really good at that.”

Asked how much of a difference a driver who’s on top of those variables can make, the Mexican driver replied: “Yes, massively, especially in a place like Mexico where you gain a big benefit if you manage it.

“That’s why very often you see cars taking air and not taking the tow because you want to make sure your brakes don’t go too far high. And you have to time that properly because you could obviously not get the benefit of the tow.

“But you could get more benefit by having your brakes in a much better stage or your engine and so those variables come into play.”

Mercedes were buoyed by Sunday’s result as Hamilton finished second to Max Verstappen, the driver beating the Ferraris to the chequered flag despite Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz locking out the front row of the grid.

Gutierrez, though, isn’t getting too carried away as he concedes the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is a very different circuit to any other on the F1 calendar.

“Mercedes as a team, the whole team is very motivated and they’re working hard to close the gap to Red Bull,” he said.

“We have made very good progress so everyone in the team is really pushing and looking forward to the next couple of races.

“Mexico is an outlier because of the altitude, the characteristics of the circuit, it’s pretty difficult to judge our performance let’s say relative to our competitors here and how it will be for the rest of the season.

“So I’m really looking forward to seeing how we perform in Brazil.”

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